Drunk driving involving children varies by state, according to new research, and it usually involves the child being in the same car as the drunk driver. "People think of a drunk driver in one car and a family in another,” said Dr. Kyran Quinlan, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The drunk driver runs a light and hits the family vehicle and there’s a tragedy.”
However, this scenario is not always the case. Two-thirds of the time the child is the passenger in the vehicle that caused the crash. Out of 2,344 child deaths caused by in drunk driving crashes between 2001 and 2010, 1,515 accidents were caused by the culprit vehicle. And while deaths by alcohol-impaired drivers have decreased by 41 percent, it still remains a threat to many children.
“This study highlights the need for additional penalties for those convicted of drunk driving with a child passenger,” said Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), HealthDay reported. “Driving drunk with a child passenger is a form of child abuse, and no child should ever be put in that kind of danger.”
Between 2001 and 2010, Texas had 272 deaths and California had 135, making them the two highest states where a child was killed while riding with an impaired driver. However, if you look at relative population, South Dakota and New Mexico had the highest rates of children dying while riding with an impaired driver, the news release stated. The authors also found that 61 percent of the children who were with impaired drivers did not have any type of restraints such as a seatbelt, and one-third of the drivers did not have a valid driver’s license.
The study authors also believe that drunk driving is a great threat to the health and wellness of children across the U.S. Stricter drunk driving laws and incorporating taxes on alcohol are some ways that states can discourage drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, Dr. Quinlan believes.
“We’re hoping that states may take a look at their numbers, now that they have them, and consider renewed efforts to get at this,” he said. “Thirty years ago, it was a completely different culture than it is today. People used to talk about having one for the road, and that is just not funny anymore.”